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First woman President of Harvard in 371 years

Harvard Drew
Drew G. Faust fields questions from the press at the news conference following the announcement of her election. (Photo Kris Snibbe/Harvard News Office)

A message from Kathy Jacob about the reaction at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Its leader, Drew Gilpin Faust, was appointed the first woman President of Harvard in 371 years. This piece was written on Monday, February 12, the first work day after the news became official at Harvard.
Little will get done around here today!
Drew called us all together at Agassiz Theater this morning. Of course she got a long, long standing ovation and lots of cheers and chants.
All of the Radcliffe Institute Fellows marched down Concord Avenue and into the theater together with huge bunches of red and white balloons that read Prez Drew, 371 (that’s how many years Harvard’s been around), etc. But the very best were the “It’s a Girl!” balloons!
Click on the link at the very end of the message for some great photos of Drew.
Kathy
Kathryn Allamong Jacob
Curator of Manuscripts
Schlesinger Library
Radcliffe Institute
Harvard University

February 11, 2007
Dear Members and Friends of the Harvard Community, I am extremely pleased to report that Drew Gilpin Faust, the dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the Lincoln Professor of History at Harvard, has been elected to become the twenty-eighth president of Harvard University, effective July 1, 2007.
Drew is an inspiring and accomplished institutional leader, a superb scholar, an outstanding teacher, and a wonderful human being. Harvard will benefit from her experience, her energy, and her wisdom in the years to come.
I invite your attention to the announcement that appears at http://www.harvard.edu, where you can read more about our new president-elect.
On behalf of the presidential search committee and the governing boards, I thank the many of you who offered us your advice during this important search. With your help, we have reached an outcome that holds great promise for all of us who care about Harvard.
Many thanks, and all best wishes.
Sincerely,
James R. Houghton
Senior Fellow of the Corporation
Chairman, Presidential Search Committee
Link to press release: http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2007/02.15/99-president.html

It is a Gender Thing

I look forward each Friday to reading Judith Warner’s analysis of current events in her blog on the New York Times website. Her insights tend to align with and reinforce what I’m learning from my work at IWPR, and it’s reassuring to see a major media source provide an outlet for feminist views. This week, however, I was disappointed in her take on the appointment of Drew Gilpin Faust as Harvard University’s new president. She argues:

The selection of Faust seems to be about much more than the replacement of a man by a woman . . . In today’s world, it isn’t a gender thing. It’s a human thing. To insist otherwise is to cut Faust off at the knees just as she’s poised to spring into history.

This highlights exactly what’s wrong with the women’s movement today: it’s undermined by its very successes. As individual women succeed, they tend to distance themselves from the movement out of a fear of being pigeonholed or reduced to their gender. They prefer that their accomplishments be attributed to their individual characteristics, qualifications, and capabilities. But in disregarding the role of gender in their lives, they give credence to the view that we no longer live in a patriarchal society, and this is far from the truth.
We tend to forget the institutional barriers that still exist for women. We forget that women still only make 77 cents to men’s dollar. We forget that the majority of people living in poverty in this country as well as around the world are female. We forget that while the November 2006 elections brought to federal office record numbers of women policy makers, women still only make up about 16% of the United States House of Representatives and Senate. As Dr. Heidi Hartmann pointed out on this blog earlier this week, “it’s when we think about the years going forward instead of backward, and we try to imagine the Harvard presidency without a male incumbent for 371 years, that we get some glimpse of what that exclusion has meant for women.”
So while Dr. Faust’s appointment is attributable to more than her gender, as Warner argues, it is also, very importantly, a gender thing. It is a major breakthrough for women, and should be celebrated as such.
– Anna Danziger

Harvard Appoints Woman as the Next President

It’s hard to believe that in the wake of the Larry Summers/women in science disaster at Harvard University, Harvard has actually appointed a woman as the next president, Drew Gilpin Faust. I wish I could report to you that I know her or know her work, but alas I do not. She is a historian of women and has taught and directed women’s studies at the University of Pennsylvania. I surely wish her well, and I’m pleased for her (and us) that she joins three other women presidents of Ivy League universities, bringing the total at the eight Ivy League schools to 50 percent female. She’ll be in a good place to be able to pick up the phone and talk things over with her colleagues, male and female, but I imagine there are some things she’ll want to check out mainly with the women. Ruth Bader Ginsberg has said she’s lonely on the Supreme Court. We definitely need our gal pals.
While I think its wonderful Harvard has taken this step toward equal opportunity for women, I can’t get away from the thought that the situation will not be equalized for women at Harvard until we have had 371 straight years of women presidents. It’s when we think about the years going forward instead of backward, and we try to imagine the Harvard presidency without a male incumbent for 371 years that we get some glimpse of what that exclusion has meant for women.
– Heidi Hartmann

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